Chewing: Teaching Your Small Pet What’s Right and Wrong
Chewing. It’s a fact of small pets. Unfortunately, it’s also something that causes a lot of damage to things that it really shouldn’t.
You see, it’s perfectly natural for small pets like rabbits to chew. This isn’t something that evolution is going to squeeze out of them over time; it’s something that they have to do in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Now isn’t the time to banish chewing altogether – that would be something that would do your furry friend more harm than good (although on the flip side, it might do wonders for your home finishing’s). Instead, you need to learn how to manage this chewing. In other words, you need to divert your pets away from all of those wires and wooden furniture, and down to things that will do them the world of good.
Ready to get started? Let’s break this subject down.
Will all small pets chew the same amount?
You might notice that your friend’s rabbit chews far less than yours, and subsequently has far fewer problems. This isn’t necessarily down to training, your friend may have just struck lucky with the type of rabbit that he has. There are several factors which influence how likely a small pet is going to chew, such as the following:
- Females chew more than males – The sex isn’t going to be a huge factor, but studies have been carried out which show that female rabbits chew slightly more than males.
- Neutered or spayed rabbits chew less – Another study has found that if your rabbit has been neutered or spayed, they are less likely to chew. If your pet has just experienced this procedure, you’ll probably find that over the next few months the chewing will be cut down significantly.
- Chewing is more prevalent in young rabbits – Just like puppies and small children like to exercise their gums at a young age, the same occurs with small pets. Therefore, if you own a young rabbit, you should obviously expect them to be more active with their gums than an older one.
- The need to chew – This is an interesting one and mainly affects rodents like mice, rats and hamsters. In the wild, these animals will always be chewing just to survive. In your home, the need to chew declines as put simply, life is a lot easier. It means that stimulated pets are less likely to chew.
- It boils down to personality – Unfortunately, this is something that can’t really be influenced. Some rabbits are born as chewers, while others aren’t. It’s a fact of life and if you’ve found that your rabbit tends to be one of the curious variety, there’s every chance that he’ll be more of a chewer.
What should your pets not be chewing?
This should be a question that you’re asking yourself. After all, anything that you don’t want damaging should not be coming into contact with your pet’s teeth! Therefore, the answers are quite obvious.
While inconvenience is one reason to dissuade your pet from chewing certain objects, there are other reasons. For example, as well as damaging your electrical devices, there are naturally electrocution risks associated with chewing wires. Then, as well as ruining your children’s toys, these toys also contain small parts which prompt a choking hazard. Even house plants should be avoided – there’s every chance that these could prove to be toxic.
It all means that you have to be very careful with what your pet is allowed to be near unsupervised.
Instead of ruining your home and potentially risking their health, what can your pet chew on safely?
Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives which your pet can chew on. It might be tricky to divert their attention to these objects, but this is something we’ll address in the next section.
Here are some possibilities that can replace the dreaded household items:
- Untreated wood – A lot of pets are immediately drawn to wood in the house, but a lot of the time it’s unfortunately the type that you really don’t want them to go near. Additionally, this wood is often treated, which can prompt all sorts of other risks due to the toxic nature of the chemicals which are applied. Bearing the above in mind, find a piece of untreated wood, and provide that for their chewing.
- Willow branches – Household plants might be off the agenda, but you can almost replace them with willow branches. It provides the same effect; only this time there’s no poisoning risk and you can also keep your plants in one piece.
- Toilet rolls – It’s an old classic, but either toilet or kitchen rolls are perfect. They’re formed out of cardboard and as well as providing chewing relief, they’ll also roll around and provide some additional stimulation.
- Pet toys – This one should be a given. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of pet toy manufacturers out there who have realized the problem faced by pet owners and have released countless chewing devices. As they are designed for small pets, the dangers of small parts are eradicated as well.
How can you stop your small pet from chewing the wrong things? Are there any training tips?
As we’ve already touched upon, changing your small pet’s approach in relation to chewing is easier said than done. Fortunately, a lot of small pets are susceptible to training, with rabbits being particularly good at following instructions. It will take time, but here is some advice which might make your life a whole lot easier.
- Don’t raise your voice – Has the TV just sparked off after a chewed wire? It’s tempting to yell the place down, but unfortunately this isn’t going to have any effect on your furry friend. Positivity is the key here and rather than shouting the roof off, or even worse raising a hand, channel the energy into a more constructive response that will guarantee different behavior in the future.
- Short and sharp commands – Shouting might be off limits, but short and sharp commands most certainly are not. As soon as you spot your rabbit nibbling something he shouldn’t be near, it’s time to clap your hands suddenly and say ‘No!’ in a firm voice. The aim is to shock your rabbit, which should at least prevent the chewing from continuing. Unfortunately, the chances of this working in the long-term are quite small, but if you can at least point out that the behavior is not acceptable it can act as a small deterrent.
- Reward good behavior – We touched upon positivity previously, and we’ll reiterate it again. We’ve already highlighted the types of objects that you should be providing your pet to chew on, so make sure you put these in front of him whenever possible. When he does start to chew these toys or sticks (as opposed to the house furniture), you should be quick to reap the praise on him. Additionally, give him a treat to reinforce the message – this is clearly showing that chewing these objects is the right thing to do. Before long he’ll have long-forgotten about the wooden furniture you’ve just bought.